Sixteen months after Governor Deval Patrick signed a law clearing the way for small businesses to band together to buy health insurance, the state Division of Insurance said yesterday it has certified two organizations as the first group purchasing cooperatives.
The certification, effective Jan. 1, allows the Retailers Association of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives to begin talking with the state’s commercial health plans about new lower-cost insurance products that they hope will attract tens of thousands of members to their cooperatives.
“If you talk to the retailers and the chambers, they’ll measure success by the savings and satisfaction of their members,’’ said state Insurance Commissioner Joseph G. Murphy. Murphy said insurance regulators are reviewing applications from other would-be cooperatives, and may approve several more in the next three months.
Small business advocates had been pushing a group purchasing initiative for much of the past decade, arguing that employers with fewer than 50 workers are disadvantaged in a health insurance market that favors big businesses with more buying clout. Larger enterprises often pay less because they are self-insured, meaning they manage the risk of their employee pools themselves and rely on insurance carriers to process claims.